Personal Growth

Make Shifting Your Priorities a Priority

One fun fact: if you plan to live to 120, you do not have to be middle aged until you are 60. Even so, most of us are in or are getting close to the second half of our lives. With more time behind us than in front of us, prioritization is becoming more important, and what is important changes through the cycles of our lives.

In my twenties, I took a year off from studies and work to stay home and look after my two sons, an infant and a toddler. Children were the priority then, but second to being a good mother came being a good housewife. At home with the kids all day, I filled my time with housework. Monday I did laundry, Tuesday I cleaned the downstairs, Wednesday I cleaned the upstairs, Thursday I shopped and Friday I cooked. I was proud of my housekeeping.

The next year, I started graduate school commuting through good Ontario winters. Suddenly there was no time to spend most of all day everyday doing housework. That was when I learned one very useful question to ask when establishing prioritization. Will it matter in ten years? Whether I passed or failed my studies would matter. How I raised my kids and treated my husband would matter, but no one in ten years would care whether every supporting post on the staircase railing got polished every week. What used to take all week could be done in a few hours and my house would still be clean and safe enough for my family and presentable enough for my friends.

Prioritization at work also changes over time. In younger adulthood, such priorities are primary. There are careers, reputations and an income base to establish. The focus is on ambition and who you are or can become in the business or professional world. I have been there and done that; so did most of my friends and colleagues. Then I started noticing some changes.

Instead of centering on the buttoned up, businesslike downtown world, my friends started talking about things like grandchildren. I had trouble relating, not only because I did not have grandchildren. Wasn’t career the be all and end all? Well, no. Past a certain point, expecting your career to be the main focus of year life ten years down the road is not always realistic.

However, little grandchildren in ten years will be turning into independent adolescents. Then, they will no longer be so delighted to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa. Make them a priority now.

Our own health and well-being becomes ever more important as time rolls on. Best to pay attention to it now so that we will be able to enjoy all our future priorities whether they be career, family, community service or travelling the world. A few simple habits like eating more veggies or moving more will get you there.

Finally, there comes a time in our lives when the ten year rule no longer makes sense. We see our parents age and eventually pass on. We note, usually with horror, that other family members, friends and colleagues—some even younger than we are—lose their abilities or even their lives. Finally, facing the fact that we do not have an infinite life span, it is time for a new priority. Make today count.

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